Reilly Grace Marshall (BA 2021 in History & Communication)
American Express, Marketing Analyst in New York, NY
Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.
I’m a Rewards Marketing Analyst at American Express. My team supports the marketing for Membership Rewards® points, highlighting ways card members can utilize these points to book travel, redeem for gift cards, pay a statement credit, etc. My favorite thing about my role is the opportunity to take on new projects and the different functions in my day-to-day responsibilities. Right now, for example, I’m focused on results from a campaign that just wrapped up, but tomorrow, I could be working on copy for an upcoming placement.
What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?
My current role is my second role since graduation. Pretty soon into my first role, I realized my skill set and the position were not a long-term fit. I ended up leaving the role and spending 3 months networking and seeking out informational interviews. I used the Wake network, former employer network, and even some cold outreach to narrow down where I could see myself next. Through my experience and informational interview discussions, I uncovered up what elements were important to me in my next role. I asked questions like: What does career development look like? Are there creative opportunities in this role? What was the work-life balance? Is this role a subject matter expert or generalist role?
These questions helped me uncover exactly what I was looking for. It’s cliché, but interviews are a two-way street. You should feel empowered to ask questions and evaluate if a position will bring out the best in you.
What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?
I know this is a common feeling, but the “fall from perfection” was the hardest lesson I learned from my first job. Ever since grade school, we had rubrics for success or a letter grade on a quarterly basis. Learning to navigate in the grey area is uncomfortable. At first, I felt like every mistake was deducting from my success trajectory, and that could not be farther from the truth. I shifted my mindset, acknowledging past failures as helpful information and lessons learned for the future. I learned to ask for help and consult my peers about how they handle difficult situations. I’m at the dawn of my career. If I got every answer right, then what would be left to learn?
What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?
Find what brings you joy, and make it a priority. This looks different for everyone, but find what energizes you and protect that. I live in New York, so for me, I love to visit museums and go to the theater. I have a budget for tickets and museum admissions, and I take advantage of deals and discounts in the city. For example, New York Public Library card holders get free admission to certain museums, and some shows have a digital lottery for discounted tickets. For some people, it may be workout classes or cooking an elaborate meal, but whatever sparks joy is worth keeping around.
How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?
Always say yes. When I look back at my post grad years, most of my relationships have been made by just showing up! I have found the world is much smaller than you think, so by going to a birthday dinner or group coffee, you will inevitably leave with more connections than when you arrived.
The same goes for professional opportunities. Through company interest networks or even a team happy hour, you will get to speak with someone outside of your day-to-day. In those situations, specifically, you are always growing your network, and it’s a bonus if you make a new friend along the way!
Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?
I’m incredibly grateful to work at a company where personal development and career growth are an enterprise priority. As a result, I have been able to have mentorship conversations and leadership exposure pretty early in my career. Because of this, I view mentorship less as a transaction between 2 people, but a compilation of wisdom and insight woven together. As I mentioned earlier, I’m just starting in my career and have lots to learn, so I try to absorb experience and insight whenever possible. One of my favorite quotes is, “a good leader knows when to send an email, a great leader knows when not to.”
What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional job?
Give yourself grace, and don’t underestimate your resilience. It is a hard transition going from Wake Forest, where you and all your friends live in a quad radius surrounded by a community of kind and generous people, to a place you may know no one. Think back to your freshman year. It most likely it looks much different from your senior year. That is to say a lot can happen in four years. Your next chapter isn’t any different. It takes time to get into a routine, find your favorite coffee shops, and form a community! So be kind to yourself when you navigate that transition.
What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?
As mentioned before, I’m very fortunate to work at a company where development in a priority! This means I’m constantly having open conversation with my leaders about my goals, areas for growth, and long-term aspirations. For growth areas in particular, I try to raise my hand for projects in those areas to further develop.
Story published in December 2023. For current updates on Reilly Grace’s career path, visit her LinkedIn profile.